Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch
After the Fall 2016

Sunday, May 14, 2017

On the Move Again

Some dreams take longer than others, as you already know. 30 months ago, I escaped from Charlotte, with a purple trunk and four boxes on board a cross-country train. Destination: Seattle.

My dreams: a studio or apartment in Capitol Hill





and a job at the Elliott Bay book store.



Things didn't go quite as planned. To get my feet, I took a studio in the 'historic'--old and sketchy--part of town known as Pioneer Square.


And, no job offer from the bookstore, I worked at a couple of loser jobs before finding an okay one in...Capitol Hill. Terrific, except for a couple of things: I'd grown tired of seeing throngs of Walking Dead homeless and drug dealers in Pioneer Square. And my workplace is moving to Renton in late August--a three-hour round-trip daily commute.



The time had come for action--the all-out, full-speed, damn the torpedoes kind.
1) At work I learned from a coworker of a studio just a few blocks from the office.
2) I viewed it and decided to take it the next day, though it's a few hundred bucks more than I've been paying. I could make up that difference, I figured, by no longer using Uber.
3) I completed the online application.
4) I reapplied at Elliott Bay Book Company, this time handing the application to a manager.
5) I gave the necessary 2-week notice on my month-to-month studio.
6) I began checking online for cheap but well-reviewed movers.
7) I started scrapping all furniture and furnishings except for the best of the best.

And on and on and on. Before the move to Seattle, I'd needed six months to pack and prepare. This time I have just a couple of weeks. 

Next up: a new job in Capitol Hill.

It's good to be back in action again.




Sunday, April 30, 2017

3 Sticks, a Cat and a Mouse

If you look like food, you will be eaten.
--Clint Smith




Live long enough and you'll soon start to see that you're looking mighty delicious to young jackals out roaming the streets. Mugging's the most obvious worry, since you're in no shape to sprint in pursuit. But money's just one thing you're likely to lose--the attempted thefts of dignity seem to come more often as your head starts to hang and your posture grows slouched. Hey, look, it's a Crinkly--charge!

 For a couple of months I'd been toting the massive Ten Shin walking stick put out by Steven Seagal.



44" long, it weighs about two pounds, and is made of nearly indestructible polypropylene. It can be used as a sword, a spear, a lance--even swung with the handle like an ax. No one troubled me when I carried this stick. Even cars were less likely to cut me off while I was crossing. On the other hand, it attracted a fair share of negative feedback ('You looking to bash heads today?") and even more negative vibes. The jackals were scared but they wanted to jump. I could see it in their eyes. Just as bad, it seemed highly unlikely I could carry the Ten Shin on a plane or bring it to most offices. Furthermore, it's too big to stow in most lockers.
Ten Shin score: one thumb up and one thumb down. Good for hikes and late night walks.

I mail-ordered an alternative: a classy wood cane I could take anywhere. Or so it seemed to me. But this is what I got. Length: 36". Shaft size 18 mm. Weight: .9 lbs.


Attractive but featherweight. And it projected weakness, inviting trouble--which it did. The first night I went home from work, I grabbed my favorite light rail seat at the end of a side bench. Another guy sat at the opposite end. This left room for an average-size person in the middle. But twice in the course of the ride bruisers looked at the opening, looked at me...and slammed themselves down into the too-small space, then started jostling for room. The finger-thin shaft of the cane had signaled easy prey.
Feeble cane score: two thumbs down.  

I had words with the two men, protecting my space. And yet I got to thinking: How could I look less like food at my age?  Or: how could I walk in peace and grace while reducing the risks and the hassles?

I brooded.

I Googled.

I ordered.

Result:



You're looking at the Bubba Stik. You can custom build your own on their website, choosing from a variety of styles, woods, with or without the name branded, And there's no charge for cutting the stick to your size. The shaft is 1". The stick weighs 19.2 ounces. And it's seriously elegant with rugged hardwood shaft and gleaming brass hame knob.
Bubba score: two thumbs and eight fingers up, with a rowdy Rebel yell.

Today, my first day with the stick, I can say: it can be taken anywhere, even on a plane (I checked). Combined with a strong gait and confident air, it commands attention...and respect. Twice, people ran out of their way to open doors for me.

Where I go, there goes Bubba now. Make your own choice, certainly. But whatever you do, as you grow older, make sure at all costs you do not look like food. The jackals are waiting for you, be assured.


Here's the Bubba Stik website if you'd like to check it out:

http://www.bubbastik.com/about.cfm

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My Outrageously Sexy and Action-Packed Life

People often envy the thrilling life I lead. And I've learned to speak humbly about it.

The many fantabulous mountains I've climbed.



My bloody bouts of MMA.


My passion for riding the rails.


And, God help me, the insanely beautiful women I'm always making love to.



So, even on an average week I'm strapped for time to post here. But for the past two weeks my kicks have been curtailed by the sort of adventures I hate to describe.

I'm ashamed to admit that I've been holed up for the best couple of weeks--and not brawling or bedding or riding the rails or wrestling alligators. Holed up, I say! Like a lowdown lonesome scribe!


And what does that entail, if not yet another party at the Playboy mansion?

God forgive me:
--I've been proofing The Alcatraz Correction for Hold Fast Press to convert into Createspace format.  The second Boss MacTavin mystery will soon be available in paperback.
--I'm completing the outline for the fifth MacTavin mystery--one that takes the franchise in a brand-new direction.
--I'm also working 40 hours a week while looking for a new job before the present one moves out of town.

That's it, you ask? I know, I know. But trust me. I'll return to form soon, I promise. And once again I'll live the life led by all self-respecting Real Writers.

Reb MacRath, Action Hero.

This is my report.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Perception: Gaming the Odds


                                                                  ----------------


Here's a job search challenge you'll face one day, if you haven't faced it already.

Imagine that you're preconceived as being somewhat dated. Why? Let's say your last experience in the field that you hope to re-enter was fifteen years ago. And let's also say you've had several jobs since then.

With a chronological resume, your job skills might not even be seen.

40 years of reading resumes has taught me that most of them get less than a minute of review. The creative ones, the ones that yell out "Hey, look at me." are the ones who get more notice.
--John Jurkiewicz






You may try to better the odds, starting with your strong suit (way back when)--then flashing forward, as it were, to your present job and working back. But the jumpy timeline's as likely to leave employers dizzy as it is to work.

What to do?

And Double-Whoa what do you do if the company you're approaching has its own app form, requiring a chronological approach?




The MacRath Solution:

I decided to honor the company's requirements--while at the same time designing and ordering a simple but catchy attachment. And that attachment, I believe, will get me an interview: a 4x5 card on premium stock, giving the names of two bookstores I worked at for ten years. I provide my contact info and state 'Any hours/days, including holidays'. (That's a big issue in retail.)

Finally, on the back of the card, I added a little something extra that should further whet their appetites...and inspire them to see me as the brightest light.





Stay tuned for the results. I'll receive the attachment cards by 4/7 and hope to complete the application next weekend.

Come on, Lady Luck, goose Reb MacRath!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Courage in the Little Things

We all want to be action heroes. And when the time and place are right we even plan to try. Some will be this way:


And some will be thus:




I've had moments of my own: 25 years of martial arts until my body gave beneath the weight of accidents and breaks...a half-dozen cross-country moves, including the latest to Seattle at an age when most men are winding down...the discipline and spiritual stuff to keep on keeping on after my publishing luck headed south...

But I've come to a curious crossroads. On August 21 my office will move to Renton, Washington...a daily round-trip commute of three hours, The new environment, an office park, will be sterile in comparison and corporate to the letter. There are no cafes nearby, where I might write before or after work. So I would in effect become a weekend writer, after having grown accustomed to writing a couple of hours daily before work, then another hour after.

Then again, I've grown accustomed to the security of benefits. Plus weekends and holidays off have been nice.

I called the crossroads 'curious' because dilemmas of this sort don't call for this sort of courage:




But there's no lack of courage in finding the guts and wherewithal to get out of the way of disaster.



Getting out of the way in this instance requires shifting my focus from the benefits I'll lose to the stark reality of a three-hour daily commute to an office park.

Wanted: a better position in town without long loss of benefits or writing time.

Required: superior planning, timing and execution of the search. And this can't be an occasional thing. It must be relentless and also all-encompassing--from an updated resume to every aspect of my professional image.

Writing strategy: protect the new book at all costs. Complete first draft by mid to late July.

A relentless, daily siege respecting even the tiniest things. Or as Vincent put it:




Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rain City Blues




It hasn't rained this much in Seattle, they say, since 1961. And I'm of two minds about that. It's a tough choice at the moment between:

Jerry Seinfield
“Seattle is a moisturizing pad disguised as a city.”


and

Tom Robbins
“In the deepest, darkest heart of winter, when the sky resembles bad banana baby food for months on end, and the witch measles that meteorologists call ‘drizzle’ are a chronic gray rash on the skin of the land, folks all around me sink into a dismal funk. Many are depressed, a few actually suicidal. But I, I grow happier with each fresh storm, each thickening of the crinkly stratocumulus. ‘What’s so hot about the sun?’ I ask. Sunbeams are a lot like tourists: intruding where they don’t belong, little cameras slung around their necks. Raindrops, on the other hand, introverted, feral, buddhistically cool, behave as if they live here. Which, of course, they do.”


It should feel more like spring now. Why?

--I've completed and published my new Boss MacTavin mystery, Seattle Red.
--On Wednesday, March 22, I'll be interviewed by Pam Stack on her live podcase, Authors on the Air.
--I've nearly finished laying the foundation for my next novel.
--I've joined a great local, affordable gym a few blocks from my apartment.
--Hold Fast Press has just issued a beautiful print version of Southern Scotch.
--Print plans are in the works for the three remaining Boss MacTavin mysteries.

And yet...



My brain's swimming in rainy day thoughts.
--I should have accomplished more at my age.
--Thinking of time, I feel a growing sense of urgency.
--Within six months, my workplace will move to distant Renton, requiring a far greater round-trip commute.
--The new job site is an isolated office park sending out smothering corporate vibes.
--Goodbye to the gym if I go there and goodbye to the writing time before or after work.
--Goodbye to my benefits, though, if I go and return to temp work.

Yeah, yeah. Boo-hoo, boo-hoo. When it rains, it pours, Reb. But why don't you also remember:



And Caesar wept, recalling that Alexander had ruled the earth before he died at 33.

So even the greatest had rainy day blues. And the blues may hold keys for an excellent spring.

--I can accomplish more if I find a new job in the city, either part time or an easy commute.
--I can reap more from my efforts if I can set up a schedule allowing time for both writing and savvy promotion..
--The sense of urgency is good....as long as it includes more attention to personal relationships.
--And where it belongs, near the top of the list, the time's come around again for:



Years have passed since Juliette died. It's time again for a kitten--for which I'll need a lot more time.
So you see how it all comes together: from rainy day blues...to thoughts of elusive Success...to loneliness and the need for more time...

Yes, I see a spring kitten coming...so I'd better get cracking again on my work.






Saturday, March 11, 2017

It's Bi-Way or the Highway When It Comes to Books

A lot of writers out there prefer the other expression:



And, let's be honest, so do a lot of readers.

A My Way writer expects crowds to follow wherever his book wants to go--screw any and all expectations or rules. So readers run into undisciplined books filled with boring or madcap digressions...promising scenes that peter out or veer off in other directions...characters that disappear or are completely inconsistent...Or the novels seem unending--hundreds of thousands, even millions, of words. Literary circuses of font colors and typographical stunts.

A My Way reader wants a book that resembles other books written the way s/he feels books should be done. I met a lot of My Way readers in the ten years I worked in two book stores. In the Mystery section, some readers were ultra-specific. They wanted books by either male or female authors only: Sue Grafton, Jonathan Kellerman, Sarah Paretsky, Robert Crais. Or they wanted mysteries set in particular cities with male or female heroes who work in their own professions: banking, advertising, etc. Furthermore, they wanted books written in the Right Style: cozy or hardboiled, slowburning or quick, character or plot-based.

This isn't meant to ridicule either My Way writers or readers. Still, the extreme My Way writer resembles a delusional online game tyrant. In the 80's, when Horror was huge, a few of the bigger names liked to proclaim: Screw your agent and/or your publisher if they give you any grief--write whatever you want and then move along if you have to. Some writers took it to the next level: screw the reader too--our job's to write, their job's to read. There's no read to wonder where such writers are today...or their books. The real world, including the real reading world, simply doesn't work that way,

But don't stop there. The extreme My Way reader resembles a porn aficionado.



Extreme My Way readers can't get into a novel that fails to meet all their specifics--from the hero's height to where s/he works to the style of the prose. A repeat experience is the supreme goal...just as it is with adult films. Take your pick from endless lists: black, white, Asian...oral or anal,..soft or garish lighting...splashy or unsplashy...

Getting back, though, to writing and reading: Bi-Way or the Highway offers more elegant kicks and rewards.



A Bi-Way writer finds freedom in following--and occasionally breaking--the conventions of his/her art. When s/he breaks the rules, it's with the reader in mind, a shock-enhanced experience. Whether s/he writes plainly or likes to ride the purple page, again it's with thoughts of the reader's delight. 

A Bi-Way reader seeks a fresh, not a repeat, experience. This reader has a comfort zone that s/he likes to indulge. There are types of rides that s/he likes best. But s/he is always open to something totally different...so long as it's done well. The style may be plainer or packed with more word play, more thoughtful or thought-free than his/her usual fare. S/he doesn't mind. S/he only cares that the writer does ask with his/her pleasure in mind: